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Chris Christenberry

Tools and Equipment Musings.

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It probably hasn't been missed by many, but I'm a total newbie.  Trying to get a forge up and running from scratch.................which every one of you has had to do unless you inherited a forge facility fully stocked with tools and equipment.  :lol:

 

I'm presently working on my forced air ribbon burner forge. Was able to locate a beautiful 100# Fisher anvil and put it on a "proper" stump. (as seen in my avatar)  Located, cleaned up and mounted a nice 4" leg vise.  I have a couple of nice ovens my Dad used in his jewelry business that are more than adequate for heat treating and tempering.  (though I could benefit from better temp and time controls)  I can limp by with my 1x30 belt sander for now because I'm only making wood carving knives at this point.

 

So now it comes down to building/buying a 2x72 belt grinder; either buying a digital temp/time controller for my ovens or outright buying a dedicated knife oven;  building/buying a hydraulic press; building/buying power hammer.

 

In an effort to make good decisions as to what to do in all of the above builds/purchases, I've been spending a lot of time studying up on what is available.  As most of you have done, I've spent many (probably way more than "just" many):rolleyes:  hours watching Youtube videos and reading information dug up on the internet.  I've tried not to get caught up in the internet "experts" who have little or nothing in the way of quality finished product to back up their decisions/opinions.  I've stuck with people who have an impressive list of sold knives to back up what they claim in their videos as a way to look at their choices of tools and equipment.  While I'm aware good tools/equipment "does not a bladesmith make",  it's my opinion that a good bladesmith isn't going to use sorry equipment forever once they start making money selling blades.

 

Commercially made equipment, i.e. belt grinders, hydraulic presses, power hammers and HT ovens look to be out of reach for me financially right now...............but the goal is to eventually be able to purchase them.  To that end, the decision has been made that I'll pretty much be building the majority of those items.

 

I assume many of you have gone through this same process...........or are doing so at the present time.  So how about sharing pics and information about what tools and equipment you have made yourself.  I'm always interested in inventiveness among like minded individuals.

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I built (and when I say "I", I mean friends and I) a 50# mechanical powerhammer and a 30 ton press,  If you have fab skills, those tools are probably withing reach.  Grinders too.  The big "if" is, do you have fab skills?  All of those tools are dangerous, high pressures, heavy weights moving at speed, small weights moving at bullet speed.  Bad builds and marginal welding can kill you or others  One of our members here in the 2010's had a bolt shear through on his hammer.  It turned the hammer into scrap and shot a chunk of 2000 degree steel up his sleeve.  The burns and other injuries put him out of the shop for more than a year.

In some cases, building your own is something not to do.

 

There is a tendency for new smiths to go all in, buying every tool imaginable, and often overpaying in the process.  This leads to people like me getting tools on the rebound.  My advice is to make some knives and add tools to your kit when you HAVE to, not when you WANT to.

You're making small knives now, your kit seems appropriate for what you're doing.  If your grinder isn't letting you keep up with production, then replace it.  When I got started, all we had for grinders were rocks, and you had to make your own.  There were few choices, and most of them were very expensive (from the point of view of a guy who hadn't sold a knife).  Now there are a dozen or better makers, and more all of the time, so waiting might save you $.

 

Do you really need a hammer?  If I had known a bit more, I would have put my build dollars into a press.  The hammer is a great tool, and I love mine, but for many things, the press is better.  It certainly is the tool for making damascus. 

 

So, in the end, buy or build what works for you, for the work you're doing, and for the work you want to do.  Don't try to emulate what I have in my shop just because it makes you all fluttery inside when you see heavy iron.  Our Founder, Don Fogg, told me once that he had cut his tool kit down to what he could carry in a single bag (not counting anvil).  If he needed a big tool, he had friends with those tools.  Pace yourself, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

 

Geoff

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1 hour ago, Geoff Keyes said:

Our Founder, Don Fogg, told me once that he had cut his tool kit down to what he could carry in a single bag (not counting anvil).  If he needed a big tool, he had friends with those tools.  Pace yourself, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

 

Always good advice.  I have Don's old hammer, in fact. :lol:

 

Tai Goo also simplified.  Sold a Nazel 3B and a roomful of grinders, and now forges in charcoal and finishes with files and paper.  He felt the machines were pushing him to work ever harder and faster, taking the soul out of his work in the process.  

 

I don't have a press, but I have a friend with one.  

 

My fabrication skills are not great, and I have limited shop time, so for me it made more sense to buy when I could rather than build.  It took me around eight years of making and selling tomahawks entirely by hand (and angle grinder) before I'd saved enough for a belt grinder, the then-newly introduced KMG with three-speed step pulleys.  I made more hawks and axes faster then, and borrowed time on my friend's press to make damascus stuff that I sold, and then had enough that I could buy the hammer when it came available.

 

If I were making my living at this, or trying to, I might feel differently, but as it is I've acquired a decent bunch of tools over the years with a hobby that pays for itself and then some.  Though I must say the HT oven has reduced that "and then some" by a good bit...:rolleyes:  But the way I see it, it just hasn't had time to pay for itself yet.  So far it's the only tool I have that has not paid for itself, but I only just got it and it's still not hooked up so it hasn't has a chance to start.  :lol:

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Power hammers and power presses etc. speeds up production - you can make things faster, like knives, axes, and.....mistakes. When I finally got a nice 2x72 grinder, I made knives faster and screwed up several of them faster until I learned how to use it better (and I still make grinder mistakes) because I was used to doing everything by hand for years which actually helped me develop a better eye for detail.

 

The first "fancy" piece of equipment I bought was a large 22 quart roster oven that I used for tempering because I felt it gave a more even temperature control to the oft used toaster oven (and I didn't want to annoy my wife by using the kitchen oven).

 

The first tools that I made were a spring fuller, simple round stock blade tongs, and a hole saw for hidden tang knives.... and made many knives with just this simple equipment.    For years I did everything by hand (and still mostly do now).  Alan makes a good point about Tai Goo.

 

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I was mainly just hoping people would show me some of what they've made themselves for their shops.  I enjoy seeing what inventive minds create.  I don't think I'd ever want a power hammer, but a press would be nice.    I plan on using what God gave me to work with for a long while.  Just looking down the road.

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This is Abi Yoyo (I'll leave it to you to find out who that is), shop built 50#

 

Hmr065.jpg

Hmr062.jpg

 

This is Overkill 15hp 3ph 12 GPM about 30 tons

 

Press3.jpg

 

There are some tool and fixtures in this thread that I made
 

Geoff

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Well, I'm not necessarily a bad bladesmith, just have poor business sense. I'm sure many others are the same. 

I built a hammer too. I'll have to grab a picture from somewhere. It's been changing ever since I built it. My theory was to gather all the junk I could find for free or scrap price and build around that (not the best idea)... My advice would be to build something like what Geoff has. If you know someone with an old champion style hammer they'd be willing to measure, I would highly recommend you copy it as best you can. Maybe even base some of it off Geoff's if you can find some of the same size parts. They are dirt simple, all steel on steel wear parts (not Geoff's I know) with a guide that's adjustable inward. It's just so simple there isnt much that can go wrong. Your local john deer place should be able to splice a custom belt together if need be. The tire hammer design if not balanced properly will wear a motor out. I would do a belt driven system if I had to do another. 

 

But a power hammer is pretty BA to have! If I had to forfeit it, i wouldnt do very much damascus. I darn sure wouldn't be making damascus swords. If you gotta replace a bearing, or wear part once in a while it's totally worth it; if you dont kill yourself (it could happen). 

 

And I wont lie, a vertical propane forge sure is nice for making billets. 

 

This is all stuff you can probably manage if you have a background in fabrication. Hopefully welding too. 

 

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.bladesmithsforum.com/index.php%3F/topic/37039-power-hammer-build-questions/&ved=2ahUKEwigxIuaiv_lAhUGXK0KHUs1AwQQFjAEegQIBBAB&usg=AOvVaw0Ow7YoP2wCTm2dkgBx1UjX

 

Edited by Zeb Camper

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I also have 2 hydraulic presses I'm working on converting and I am bidding on an even bigger press that is already set up with T-slot beds for attaching dies. :ph34r:

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There is also this but I broke a part to the drive wheel that I have to machine a new one for it before its operational.

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This is not of my own design as it fairly closely follows the McDonald Rolling Mill Plans. These machines are really not sold commercially so you sorta have to build one if you want one. I've found it to be extremely useful for the way I work. Actually used it today to roll out some thinner stock to make a couple bird and trout knives. I also use it to smooth out distal tapers on my blades.

 

RollingMill.jpg

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Rather than buying big tools, I would recommend finding a few blade smiths to hang out with or spend money going to classes in Texarkana which is real close to you. Evidently they have split the school down there into 2 outfits but not sure on any of that. I used to go down there for weekends when I could and learned a bunch that I was missing just working by myself trying to figure things out from memory as a kid and hanging out here on the forum. 

 

I think starting out, making knives can be a fun social thing. Not sure what is happening in Oklahoma but lots of good blacksmiths making bits and spurs on the side so there should be something to get into.

 

As far as it goes, lots of people started with next to nothing, gluing abrasive paper to sticks, hogging with a angle grinder mounted in a vise, and any steel one could get their  hands on. 

 

As far as making one own tools,,,,,,,,, please remember the lesson everyone learned when Daniel exploded his electrified hammer thing and could have died,,,,,, safety safety safety, you might not get a second chance if anything goes wrong and it does. 

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Wow, thanks guys.............lot's of interesting stuff.  Just got home from a Christmas party and have to be up early in the morning to go teach my all-day wood carving class, so I won't be able to work my way through reading all the links until Sunday.  Look forward to following all that you've done.  We've a bunch of really ingenious members here on the forum, I must say.

 

Here's one that has my attention:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQ3RtF8d4zM&t=136s 

 

I think if I had to choose (right now) between press or hammer, it would have to be press.  I've used both and prefer the control of the press.......................but I'm a newbie, so what do I know????? :wacko:

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The one thing a hammer does that a press not is draw a long even taper.  Well, a press can do that, but not quickly.  A press also stops working at about 1/4" thick, the point where the dies cool the steel faster than they squish it. 

 

I like both, but for what I like to do a hammer suits me better.

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A hammer is really fun to use also!!! Can be a bit dangerous and you have to stay focused. If you seen my thumb you would understand:excl::(

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All I have to do is to look at my 3-fingered left hand to say "I can relate!"  (Dado blade on a table saw) :D

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12 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

The one thing a hammer does that a press not is draw a long even taper.

 

Alan,  that's something I'm going to need to learn how to do manually a long time before I go buying/building any power equipment. 

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